Charles Cameron (architect)
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Charles Cameron (1745 – 19 March 1812) was a Scottish architect who made an illustrious career at the court of Catherine II of Russia. Cameron, practitioner of early neoclassical architecture, was the chief architect of Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk palaces and the adjacent new town of Sophia from his arrival in Russia in 1779 to Catherine's death in 1796. All his indisputable tangible works "can be encompassed in a day's tour";〔 Cameron concentrated exclusively on country palaces and landscape gardens. Twice dismissed by Paul of Russia during the Battle of the Palaces, Cameron enjoyed a brief revival of his career under Alexander I in 1803–1805. Apart from the well-researched Catherinian period (1779–1796), Cameron's life story remains poorly documented, not in the least due to Cameron's own efforts to shake off the bad reputation he had earned in the 1770s in London.
Cameron's British neoclassicism was an isolated episode in Russian architecture, then dominated by Italian artists (Antonio Rinaldi, Giacomo Quarenghi, Vincenzo Brenna).〔Lukomsky 1943, part 1〕 According to his first biographer Georgy Lukomsky, "Cameron remains one of the greatest exponents of British taste and British Art abroad, and if he has been so completely forgotten in his own country, it would seem only right to rectify this omission".〔 Howard Colvin ranked Cameron "one of the major urban architects of the eighteenth century ... an accomplished designer and decorator in a neoclassical style that has affinities with that of Robert Adam. His style is sufficiently individual to exonerate him from the imputation of being merely an imitator...〔 Although still a Palladian, Cameron was a pioneer of Greek Revival in Russia."〔Colvin 2008, p. 213〕
Charles Cameron was the son of Walter Cameron, a London carpenter, speculative builder〔Cross 1997 p. 287〕 and a member of the London Carpenter's Company.〔Colvin 2008, p. 211〕 He claimed descent from the Camerons of Lochiel, a Scottish clan deeply involved in the Jacobite rising of 1745.〔 Cameron used the Lochiel coat of arms for his personal bookplate, although modern researchers since David Talbot Rice question or deny his claims for Lochiel lineage.〔David Talbot Rice in his 1943 ''Introduction'' described the appearance of a modified Lochiel emblem used by Cameron and noted that "No Charles Cameron who went to Russia is, however, known in the records of the family. On the other hand, a certain Dr. Archibald Cameron had a number of sons, three of whom do not figure in the history of the family at home, and it is possible that Charles was one of these."〕〔Cross 1997, p. 286〕〔Hayden 2005, p. 90〕 Researchers also disagree on the exact year of Cameron's birth, which may be either 1743, 1745 or 1746.〔
Cameron trained in London with his father and with the architect Isaac Ware. After Ware's death in 1766 Cameron settled on continuing his late master's work on a new edition of Lord Burlington's ''Fabbriche Antiche'', a project that required personal studies and surveys of ancient Roman architecture.〔 He spent 1767 in London, preparing prints of works by Andrea Palladio, and arrived in Rome in 1768.〔 There, he surveyed the Baths of Titus and Nero's Domus Aurea, digging into subterranean remains that were rediscovered only in the 20th century.〔 According to Dmitry Shvidkovsky, Cameron met in Rome with another Charles Cameron, a Jacobite and a true member of the Lochiel clan, and "borrowed" the life story of the latter to embellish his own.〔 Cameron returned from Italy around 1769 and published the results of his studies in 1772 (reissues 1774, 1775) under the title ''The Baths of the Romans explained and illustrated...'' with proper scientific commentaries in English and French.〔
Cameron's life between 1769 and his departure to Russia in 1779 remains barely known.〔 Archives attest to his involvement in only one construction contract in London, for an Adam style building in Hanover Square〔 (1770–1775).〔 Walter Cameron, the main contractor, was ruined by litigation with the property owner and had to sell his son's art collection to raise funds. Charles sued his father, who was jailed in Fleet Prison for debt.〔Colvin 2008, p. 212〕〔 In 1791, when Cameron applied for a membership in the Architect's Club of London, he was barred admission due to this and other episodes that had stained his reputation in England.〔〔
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